I went to Maine and all I can talk about are hot dogs and chicken and dumplings. What’s wrong with this picture?
Lobster, Lindsay. You forgot the lobster.
I didn’t forget the lobster. This is lobster’s year–a warm, early spring caused quite the lobsterpalooza on the Maine coast this summer. The glut was great for tourists and seafood shacks but less so for the lobstermen trying to make a living off the lowest prices in decades. We did the best we could to help; a shack’s sign along the highway announced that their lobsters were “cheaper’n hot dogs!” and we took full advantage.
Anyone you ask will tell you the right way to cook lobster and the right condiments with which to eat it. You’ll probably get a different story every time. We never seem to debate the subject much in my family, since everyone is too eager to eat. Usually a lobster per person does the trick, but there are inevitable leftovers. Maybe one cousin doesn’t eat seafood, or another only likes the claws and leaves the tail behind, or someone thought ahead and bought a few extra–in any case, leftover lobster is a brilliant thing.
Chunks of lobster dressed with mayonnaise (and perhaps celery or chopped herbs but let’s not get into that right now) are perfectly nice as a salad or tucked into a toasty white roll, but that’s hot weather food. We had a chilly night and a fridge full of leftovers, so we turned them into chowder.
Island Chowder, after Mrs. Hussey’s Try Pot Chowder in Moby Dick
My father spent our vacation reading Moby Dick, and was fixated on the following description of Mrs. Hussey’s chowder, thickened with the sailor’s cracker of flour, water, and salt:
A warm savory steam from the kitchen served to belie the apparently cheerless prospect before us. But when that smoking chowder came in, the mystery was delightfully explained. Oh! Sweet friends, hearken to me. It was made of small juicy clams, scarcely bigger than hazel nuts, mixed with pounded ship biscuits, and salted pork cut up into little flakes! The whole enriched with butter, and plentifully seasoned with pepper and salt. –Moby Dick, Chapter 15
- 1 cube butter
- 1 cup small dices ham, bacon, or salt pork
- 1 medium onion, diced
- 1 carrot, diced
- 1 stalk celery, also–you guessed it–diced
- 1 cup pulverized oyster crackers, or ship’s biscuit/hardtack. You know, if you have any lying around.
- 2 cups leftover lobster, clams, or a combination of seafood, as much as desired
- Milk as needed
Melt the butter, and render the fat from the bacon or salt pork. Saute the chopped onion, celery, and carrot until soft. Add the cracker crumbs and stir to incorporate. Pour in approximately 2 quarts of milk until you reach desired consistency and stir on low heat until the mixture thickens. Do not let it boil. Add seafood, until just heated through. Serve immediately, with or without ale.
No matter how hearty and filling it is, chowder doesn’t photograph particularly well, so I spared you that. Just imagine the steamiest, creamiest bowl of stew you’ve ever seen, with bits of lobster bobbing about, and plan to eat some soon.
PS. This summer my uncle taught me how to get the meat out of spindly little lobster legs. Most people like to suck the juice from them and toss the shells, but this technique is worth a try. Set the legs (not the claws!) on a cutting board or baking sheet, and slowly crush them with a rolling pin, rolling away from yourself to squeeze the meat and juice out. The weird little worms of lobster flesh don’t look especially appetizing, but they’re a treat. Anyone else have a favorite crustacean-cracking trick?